Thursday, June 28, 2018

"Red Hen" businesses get a quick lesson in "trademark" in the eyes of the people

I don’t have my own pictures of any Red Hen restaurants, and I may get one in DC this weekend.  I understand the one in Lexington VA may be closed for a little while, not sure when to make a visit.

The trashing of other businesses called “Red Hen” along the entire East Coast has pointed out that similarly named restaurants or retail stores that are not parts of trademarked franchises are indeed running into this sort of concern by a somewhat illiterate public, often with extremists on all sides of the political spectra. I’m used to seeing this, as I drive around a lot.  It’s common to see food businesses in West Virginia use the same names as those in Virginia but be totally independent (not franchises).  I’ve blogged about it, and made a couple of them nervous!  The Internet has changed the way the public perceives branding and even local business names.

Trademark, however, is partly based on the notion that an average consumer is not supposed to be responsible for knowing how all these businesses are run.  I learned a little more about this than some people growing up because my father traveled around a lot as a salesman (manufacturer’s representative) so I had some idea what a “brand” really means even from family upbringing.

The other comment about the Red Hen matter is, of course, is this the right wing’s just desserts, or their “own medicine”, for Masterpiece Cakeshop?  Is this Sarah Sanders’s personal karma?   You know the old adage, be careful what you wish for.
I do not personally condone business owners’ refusing to serve anyone for religious or political reasons.

Update: June 30

Here is are photos of the DC Red Hen. Note the book that looks like mine in their library.  Dinner last night before going to Town.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Facebook's seven "stupid patents of the month"

Sahil Chinoy has a little booklet in the New York Times, “What 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook”, with illustrations by Abdree Wee. 

So we have seven “stupid patents of the month” for Electronic Frontier Foundation to report and they are indeed creep, analyzing human personality types and personal contacts. Third parties, even employers, could score these before hiring you.  Platforms could kick you off if you scored poorly.  This reminds me of China’s planned social credit score.  Could China patent that in the US?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The history of software patents explained on Ars Technica

Timothy B. Lee has a very long (booklet-length) article in Ars Technica, “Why the Supreme Court’s Software Patent Ban Didn’t Last”.
This would also fit well on Electronic Frontier Foundation’s series on stupid patents.
The article stresses a couple of historical decisions, Flook in 1978, and Alice in 2014.  The Federal Circuit has generally been more friendly to questionable patents than the Supreme Court itself.
True, a mathematical theorem (Pythagorean, or the 4-color problem, or Liouville's) or formula (quadratic, like in Algebra 1) can’t be patented. Nor can a well established computer programming method today (I would wonder right off whether methods in an OOP java library can be patented, unclear) 

Somewhere, when solving a problem in the real world with real objects uses math, it can be. Jack Andraka’s patent app (2014), documented on Google (based originally on a science fair project that won a contest in 2013) depends on real world biology and various other objects (nanotubes), however “simple”.  But the purported “process” has to work (here, medically) and get approved by the FDA.

Friday, June 15, 2018

No, you can't patent a mathematical formula (even a new law of physics)

EFF’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” in May, by Joe Mullin, says, “Facebook joins the online dating arms race”.  What’s even funnier is that it stresses relationships, not just hookups. This idea could well be motivated in part by the passage of FOSTA in March, which makes promotion of any kind of hookup online border on prostitution aka trafficking, and legally risky. Yet, Facebook wants its member to interact, not just talk at each other, right?

Tim Lee, of Ars Technica, has a series of tweets regarding software patents, saying that the Supreme Court has ruled that they don’t make sense until Congress says they do. There is also some commentary on whether mathematical formulas can be patented – no, they can’t.  I suggested to Tim that he send this over to EFF for a “stupid patent of the month” essay.
My favorite stupid patent is my own color coding scheme for identifying screenplay elements, and putting them into a table.  But I gave it away free in a blog. Other authors (including one doing a graphic novel aka movie proposal) could use it.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Does one's own social media page impart a personal brand? Does raising money for "other people's causes" dilute that brand?

Just a note on my own sense of branding.

Sometimes Facebook friends have approached me to run fundraisers on my own Facebook page for them.

I feel that my public “brand” is about reporting things and analyzing them, but not on playing favorites on asking people for money for very narrow and specific causes or specific people.  So I don’t generally do this with my social media pages or sites.

I do make my charitable donations to organizations through a trust (which is explained in more detail on a Wordpress blog).  I will generally try to find an organization that can help a particular cause or group and make the donations privately, although I am likely to report on the organization on my social media or blogs.

The latest case concerned a journalist falsely imprisoned (probably) in a Latin American country.  
 The appropriate charity (for foreign legal defense) is CPJ.